Celiac disease and the lesser-known non-celiac gluten sensitivity are buzzwords in the world of celebrity diets. Miley Cyrus recently touted having celiac disease and attributed her recent weight loss to it, denying rumors that it was due to anorexia. But what is celiac disease and how does it compare to non-celiac gluten sensitivity?
Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity are autoimmune diseases. According to the Mayo Clinic, about one percent of the population suffers from celiac disease and about ten percent have a less specific gluten sensitivity. The gluten protein gliadin, found in wheat, rye, and barley, causes the body’s immune system to attack the villi in the intestines, causing symptoms such as fatigue, diarrhea, stomach pains, bloating and headaches. Eventually, the gliadins damage the villi so much that they can no longer absorb vital nutrients. If left untreated, this disease usually leads to permanent damage to the intestinal tract and malnutrition. Both celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity can occur at any point during a person’s lifetime.
Celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity are commonly treated with an elimination diet after patients report symptoms to their doctors. In an elimination diet, gluten is gradually removed from a person’s diet and doctors monitor patients’ self-reported symptoms to see if they subside. However, this treatment method is not foolproof, as there is a chance it’s due to a placebo affect. Also, with the recent surge of celebrities claiming they have celiac, people are more likely to follow the bandwagon when they may have a different allergy altogether.
The most reliable method is to have an endoscopy, which is when doctors take a small thin scope and look down the upper gastrointestinal tract through your mouth (you’re the patient is asleep for this, don’t worry). If they see signs of damage they may also perform a colonoscopy, which is the same idea but from the other end.
While eliminating gluten products from a sensitive person’s diet is a good idea, it’s also costly, the food is not always the best tasting, and it is rather difficult to maintain for what should be your entire life. How am I privy to this knowledge? I myself have non-celiac gluten sensitivity as well as my mother. While my mother’s is more severe than mine, it still is difficult finding gluten free products and making sure restaurants don’t flour certain foods before preparing them. Many fondue places add flour to their cheese so it doesn’t stick together before they adding it to the fondue pot. It’s even harder to make sure foods bought at stores don’t have some oddly named gluten products added in as well. For example many canned soups have flour added as a thickening agent. Many types of candy also have a gluten derivative added in.
While Miley Cyrus may or may not have celiac disease, regular exercise and proper dieting can go a long way in losing weight and having, in general, good health. It may seem like an easy way to lose weight and be healthy, but going gluten free is time consuming, expensive and overall a huge commitment.